16 years ago I was an overweight, exercise-phobic slob who no matter what I was actually doing, in the back of my mind I was always working out what I was going to eat for my next meal.
Snacking inbetween meals was fixed in my regime, I couldn’t eat one round of sandwiches unless there was another one with it followed by a couple of bars of chocolate. Food was the main focus of my day.
But it all changed one Saturday morning. I was looking for a pair of trousers in my wardrobe to wear but I couldn’t find any that fitted. I couldn’t do them up. I tried on every pair I owned Eventually I found a size 18 pair of stretchy jeans and after a 20 minute struggle lying on the floor using a hanger in the zip to do them up I managed to put them on. But this had been traumatic. Whilst wrestling with the zip I wondered what had happened.
More importantly I started wondering what was going to happen? I then heard in my head the immortal words of an ex boyfriend who had said to me as he found me sobbing about my weight a few years earlier “there will come a time when no matter what you do, no matter how much you diet, your metabolism will change and you simply won’t lose the weight”. My mind was racing. As I had outgrown a size 18 pair of jeans what happens next? Do I start buying size 20, then 22, then 24, 26 – when does it stop? And at that moment I had a cold realisation that this stops right here, right now. And it did.
For two years I went on a calorie-controlled diet. Out went the snacking, sugar in tea and coffee and a lot of carbohydrates. In came fresh fruit, vegetables, large plates of salads with fish or chicken and I learned to assess whether I was thirsty rather than hungry. I also learned to balance my diet in terms of volume – if I went out to a restaurant and ate pizza then I would eat it and enjoy it but perhaps reduce the amount of food I ate the next day. Calories over a couple of days were counted together.
Two years later I bought and wore a size 8 pair of Gap jeans. Size 8. Non stretchy! I had gone from 13.5 stone to 8.12 stone. None of my wardrobe fitted as it fell off me.
I could now wear Italian couture – for the first time ever – as I no longer had to live in the elasticated-waistband department of M&S. I discovered that clothes were pieces of art. I found items by Gianfranco Ferre, Versace, Moschino and Calvin Klein (yes I know but it’s a fab jacket) that transformed how I looked. They were sculptured, detailed and flattering classsics. Everything I bought I still have and still wear. I went to a party soon after and people I hadn’t seen for a couple of years simply didn’t recognize me. They put their hands out to introduce themselves to me. It was amazing.
Several years later I joined a gym to improve my fitness. This became part of my weekly routine until a friend of mine suggested that cycling might be more fun than being at the gym. It was more social, it was better to be outside than inside and it was good exercise. He introduced me to the most amazing group of people most of whom I am proud to say have become good friends. And the numbers increase every day.
In the early days, the rides were short and gentle, just a pootle around London in good conversation and fine, kind company. That opened up opportunities to do longer rides and then even longer. In my first year I cycled 2,300 miles.
The next year I cycled from London to John O’Groats in eight days with 38 other marvellous people. Never in a million years did I ever imagine I would do something like that. To top the lot my photo appeared in a cycling magazine. Unbelievable.
I have taken to cycling like a duck to water. It has had such a great impact on me that I have changed my career from being office based to being bicycle based. I have become a National Standards Cycling Instructor teaching people of all ages and children of all ages how to make the most of cycling. This has progressed to being NSIT accredited along with being a British Cycling Level 2 Coach, a Go Sky Ride Leader, Challenge Leader and a Breeze Champion. I also try every cycling thing I can. Lawn Polo, Time Trials, track, mountain biking and occasionally a Sportive. It’s all such great fun.
When I ride my bike I am as happy as a pancake. I have been introduced to the wardrobe and equipment tricks of seriously strong cyclists so I have the most comfortable of bike rides. Nothing hurts, rubs or is uncomfortable.
At the same time I am always looking for new lines of clothing, for items that can be worn on a bicycle for the commute, throughout the working day, on to evenings out and home again without looking like a Lycra laden tadpole.
My passion for food has not left me – I follow BBC_Food on Twitter and avidly watched The Great British Bake Off – during which time I’m sure I put on weight! If my cooking was anything like Richard Burr’s I would put my name down to be The Cycling Cook as opposed to The Builder/Baker! In the meantime I will hold on to my recipe collection.
The 5mile cyclist blog is not just about things that I have learnt about cycling but about the people I meet, the places I see, the wardrobe pieces I find and of course, bicycles. The best invention ever!